Christian Louboutin: 'It's very important to desire things you don't need'
For many shoe-obsessives, Christian Louboutin's red-soled creations are the holy grail. As a new Channel 4 documentary steps into his well-heeled world, Jeananne Craig reveals some of his style secrets.
Would you pay £6,000 for a pair of shoes? Plenty of Christian Louboutin's clients do.
The French designer's killer heels, with their distinctive red soles, have graced the preened and pedicured tootsies of multi-millionaires, royals and countless celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Kylie Minogue.
Along with a bulging bank balance, you'll also need a head for heights - these gravity-defying stilettos aren't built for country rambles.
A new Channel 4 documentary, Christian Louboutin: The World's Most Luxurious Shoes, peels back the curtain on the top designer's world, following him for a year as he attempts to expand his business empire into the new markets of the East.
Along the way, 51-year-old Louboutin shares his thoughts on style, shoes and sex appeal. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom...
NAUGHTY IS NICE
This "artisan of luxury" loves spikes, studs and lace, and the taller the heel, the better. Early on in the documentary, he admits: "I'm probably a little bit naughty myself, so I just give that to my shoes."
Running through his latest collection with Vogue's international editor-at-large Hamish Bowles, Louboutin draws his attention to a pair of very high lace-up stilettos, which he describes as "soft dominatrix - Taylor Swift goes fetish".
The Shake It Off singer isn't likely to be offended by the reference, however. A fan of the designer, she wore a pair of his heels in her recent Blank Space video.
KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL
Swift isn't the only celeb to possess a pair of Louboutins. Angelina Jolie wore a specially-crafted pair during the publicity tour for her 2014 Disney film Maleficent (with sculpted heels that looked like wisps of smoke), while Madonna and Lady Gaga also can't get enough of the red-heeled wonders.
But when asked to spill the beans on his A-list fans, Paris-born carpenter's son Louboutin is the epitome of discretion.
"I do have famous clients, but I feel like a doctor as well as a designer," he says. "As you probably know, a doctor has secrets and a doctor never speaks of his patient. When I do things which are public for my patient, around a movie, I will easily discuss it, but otherwise I do not discuss my patient/client - as a good doctor should!"
He does, however, give us a sneak peek of Kylie Minogue's tiny and perfectly formed "last" - a block in the exact shape of her foot, which is used to craft tailor-made shoes. We should be so lucky...
WHO CARES ABOUT COMFORT?
If you're looking for a pair of shoes to soothe your bunions, or nip down to the supermarket in, you've come to the wrong place.
In the documentary, we meet one regular customer from Shanghai who comes to Louboutin's Paris base to stock up on new heels. She has hundreds of pairs of his shoes and likes "as high a heel as possible".
After trying on a beautiful, towering pair, she asks if they comes in a taller height, explaining, "I prefer 16cm". Remember, no pain, no gain.
PRACTICALITY DOESN'T MATTER
"It's very important to desire things that you don't need," says Louboutin. "I think I make a very useless work and I'm very proud of it!"
Some may say "useless", but Louboutin's shoes are certainly eye-catching. Take the colourful designer's spike-covered creations, or his limited-edition silk, hand-embroidered Marie Antoinette shoes, which feature the French queen's face on the ankle strap ("she had her head chopped off, so this is her head ...").
Not the most practical choice of footwear, but certain to catch people's eyes.
The film also follows Louboutin to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where the designer hopes to create a new collection of shoes hand-crafted in the mountains from chunks of wood (while there, he catches up with another wealthy pal, the Queen of Bhutan).
LEAVE THE BUSINESS TO THE BUSINESS BRAINS
There's no doubt that luxury shoes are a lucrative business - at Louboutin's factory just outside Milan around 25,000 pairs are made every month for the commercial market, with prices around the £600 mark. Meanwhile, his higher-end items sell for up to £6,000.
But the designer himself confesses: "I'm useless at organising. I'm a bad organiser. I have a lot of things in my head but when it's about structuring everything, I'm pretty bad. I'm a bad leader, too."
Meanwhile, in a previous interview, Louboutin admitted the secret of his longevity was "not having any direction".
"As I never had a plan, all of my success has been a nice surprise and I have been able to do things at the correct moment. Every day of my work, I'm reminded first of all to enjoy it and to let things grow organically.
"I never really thought I would start a company. I really just wanted to design things."
- Christian Louboutin: The World's Most Luxurious Shoes, Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm